With that agenda in mind, executives and artists met at the Hollywood and Games Summit in Hollywood, California this week, discussing their successes and failures in adapting works originally meant for other artistic forms. Suggestions were shared and criticisms handed out--with massive amounts of money to be made, both sides of the table are looking for new strategies to compete for consumer dollars.
"It's a portfolio approach," said Brash Entertainment co-founder Thomas Tull in a keynote address, according to the LA Times. Since its creation earlier this year, Brash has raised some $400 million to develop over 40 games based on movie properties.
Tull also serves as CEO at Legendary Pictures, which has produced films such as Batman Begins and 300--the latter of which will soon see a game adaptation by Brash. "I have very strong feelings--from the movie side--that making movies based on games just because they sold well is a really bad idea," Tull said, according to Gamasutra. "There've been some like that that weren't up to snuff just out of the gate."
In addition to the recently-revealed Diablo movie project, Legendary is currently at work producing a film based on Blizzard's Warcraft universe. Working within both industries, Tull has a unique perspective on the business. "I think some of the stuff that makes a game translate well into a movie is a good story," he said in reference to the World of Warcraft project, adding that Legendary is working directly with the game's designers and writers as they develop the picture. "If there's a lore, if there's a road and story and a world that's been created, and characters that are interesting in a way that's more than just point and shoot."
As far as games go, Tull concedes that adaptation is a hard business to bank on. "It's difficult to predict with accuracy when you're going to end up with a hit," he admitted. "There's always an element of magic involved."
Is it magic that produces a good game, or merely a concerted effort? "These types of games are done assembly-line fashion by people who are only interested in making money," said Jesse Alexander, an executive producer with credits on TV shows like Heroes and Alias. "Very often the products are inferior. And then the whole franchise suffers because people get a bad experience."
What makes it so difficult to properly adapt a piece of work to the computer screen? The consensus seems to be that it is a lack of communication.
"Most studios can make a really good movie in 10 to 12 months. Good games take a lot longer to make, sometimes up to two years," said Bill Kispert, vice president of Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group. "Licensed games have a bad reputation, and it's probably well deserved."
Kispert knows something about successful adaptations. He recently helped entice publisher Ubisoft to produce a game based on Universal's remake of King Kong, due in part to the promise of creative freedom for the game's developers. Rather than waiting until filming was finished to begin production, the game was developed concurrently with the film by famed designer Michael Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman), who communicated directly with King Kong director Peter Jackson. The result was a game that achieved critical and financial success.
"At the end of the day we're in the storytelling business," Tull concluded, stressing that collaboration is a necessary component of development. "The video game business had become so big and so prevalent that [directors] want to be involved in these games... [In the past] games have been treated by studios like lunchboxes or other merchandise, rather than having the VFX guys come and help with the games in the creative process. I think that day's about to come."